Manchester United sale a long way off, says Michael Edelson
Manchester United director Michael Edelson has insisted that plans by the Glazer family to sell the club are a "long way down the line" after earlier unguarded comments had led him to claim it was "no secret" that the Americans would offload the Premier League leaders.
Despite consistently stating that they have no plans to sell United, having bought the club in a leveraged takeover in May 2005, reports from the Middle East in recent weeks have suggested that the Qatari royal family is preparing a £1.5bn bid to buy United from the Florida-based Glazers.
The recent payment of a PIK loan totalling £220m by the Glazers has increased speculation within the City that they are preparing the ground for a sale at the end of a turbulent year that has seen United supporters launch the green-and-gold campaign aimed at driving the owners out of the club.
But having been overheard at a private networking event in Manchester last week claiming that "It's no secret that at some time the family will sell the club", Edelson has now moved to backtrack on his comments by insisting that a sale is unlikely anytime in the near future.
Edelson said: “It is inevitable that at some time they (Glazers) will sell, but that will be a long way down the line.”
Edelson has been a non-executive director at United since 1982, when he was handed a seat on the board by chairman Martin Edwards following Sir Matt Busby’s elevation to the role of club president.
As a non-executive director of the football club board at United, Edelson is a peripheral figure at Old Trafford and has no role on the board of Manchester United Ltd, which is populated by six Glazer siblings, or any of the Glazers’ Red Football companies.
His role as a director of the football club board, alongside chief executive David Gill, Maurice Watkins and Sir Bobby Charlton, is, in reality, a powerless position retained only as the body recognised by the Football Association.
It is understood that Edelson added during the private dinner that the Glazers would sell "long after I am dead" and that it could be another "20-30 years" before the family chooses to cash in on its asset.
Sources close to the Glazers, who rejected a £1.5bn offer for the club from the Middle East last year, have insisted that the owners are focusing on the long-term at Old Trafford and that, when the £520m bond take out against the club in January is due to be paid in 2017, they will merely refinance their existing loans.
The Americans, who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL franchise, believe they can alleviate much of the club’s debt burden by securing a world record kit deal in excess of £450m before the current contract with Nike expires in 2015.
And manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been told that he has substantial funds to spend to strengthen his squad, despite interest payments on the debt totalling £45m-a-year.
The Glazers also reassured Wayne Rooney of their ability to compete for leading players during the 25-year-old’s contract stand-off with the club in October.
With Forbes magazine estimating that United is worth $1.8bn — making it the most valuable football team for the sixth straight year — the Glazers believe that they own an asset that will only grow in value in the coming years.
And despite attempts by the Red Knights, a group of financiers and wealthy United supporters, to fund a bid for the club earlier this year, staunch resistance by the Glazers to any potential offer prompted the group to shelve their attempts to launch a takeover bid.